Fortifications can be defined as the deliberate erection of physical structures intended to provide a military advantage to a defender and impede, or otherwise disadvantage, an attacker. Natural features such as relatively high ground, or favourably located water, vegetation obstacles and the like, may in themselves endow a site with the characteristics of a ‘natural fortress’, but the idea of fortifications implies a series of deliberate decisions. These relate the amount of resources needed to permit the defence of a particular geographical location to the strategic and tactical benefits of doing so. The result is a technical solution which matches the resources available for defence to those of a potential enemy. Fortifications are therefore ‘weapon systems’ whose principal purpose is to compel an attacker to expend more time or resources on their capture than is expended on their defence. In that sense, both the rifleman’s individual ‘foxhole’ and the rock plateau of Carcassonne—surrounded by 3-metre-thick and 1,100-metre-long walls, with twenty-six circuit towers (Salch 1978)—are fortifications, designed to allow ground to be held by a weaker defence against a stronger attack.
Given the various important defence roles that cities have always possessed, as outlined earlier, it is not surprising that the idea of fortifying cities is as old as the idea of the city itself. This is not the place to repeat the various theories of urban genesis but it does seem reasonable that the basic human daily need for sleep and shelter, and the longer-term rhythms of child rearing and seasonal food storage, made necessary the territorial defence of sedentary settlements; the coming together of people in large groups gave not only a security in numbers but also allowed the division of labour so that the strong could defend the weak. Improving the natural defences of such a settlement—with a ditch or a rampart of accessible materials such as earth or wood—seems such a short logical step that it must have been taken almost instantaneously with the decision to settle rather than seek security in flight or concealment. Certainly, archeological evidence of the earliest cities, more often than not, shows a fortified settlement. In Palestine, Jericho was walled from around 6500 BC, but despite an 8-metre-wide ditch and a stone wall
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Publication information: Book title: War and the City. Contributors: G. J. Ashworth - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 12.
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